Blog

Sharmin and Halima - the story behind Bringing it Home

Bringing it Home title

Seventeen-year-old Sharmin Akter from Ramkristopur, Bogra District, Bangladesh, has a seven-month old daughter, Halima. When she was pregnant, Sharmin regularly attended a Women and Children First women’s group run by our local partner in Bangladesh, the Perinatal Care Project, where she learnt how to look after herself during pregnancy.

I went for my antenatal check-ups, took iron tablets, had a tetanus injection, and made sure I had good food and plenty of rest.

Late one night, when my baby was almost due, I started having severe abdominal pains. These went on all night long but by the next morning the baby showed no sign of arriving. Some friends from my women’s group visited me and reminded me that being in labour for more than 12 hours is a sign that me and my baby might be in danger.

They suggested that my husband take me to the nearby hospital immediately.
 But he didn’t have any money, so he asked his parents to help. They wouldn’t give 
him the money to get to the hospital because they thought my labour was normal, and that we should just wait for the baby to arrive.

My friends were certain, though, that we needed medical care, so when
 my husband returned, they gave us 2,000 Takas (about £17) to get to the hospital, accompanied by the local traditional birth attendant and some members of my women’s group.

I needed a small cut (episiotomy) and Halima was born safely; then we stayed in hospital for 15 days. After the birth, members of my women’s group came to give me advice on how to care for Halima, telling me what vaccinations she should have, and how to prevent pneumonia and other illnesses. I knew to give Halima a good start by breastfeeding her for six months.

The women’s group also talked to my parents-in-law about what had happened, and they now realise that they had not understood the dangers of a long labour nor the need for me to receive hospital care.

I believe that, without the support of the women’s group, Halima would have died. I think that all the women in the village should go to women’s group meetings, and hope that when Halima grows up, she, in turn will join the a Women and Children First group so she will be able to help the next generation of women.

Our work in Bangladesh

Women and Children First has worked with the Perinatal Care Project since 2002. Together we have established 1,004 women’s groups reaching over 85,500 women and their babies.

The programme was evaluated in 2012 and showed we had reduced the death rate of newborn babies by 38%. There were also significant improvements in newborn care practices such as using safe delivery kits, keeping a baby warm immediately after birth and breastfeeding.

Through taking part in a women’s group, Sharmin learnt about breastfeeding, nutrition, and the need for vaccination and regular check-ups.

 

There’s still more to do ...

Throughout the next three years we’ll be working in the Bogra district of Bangladesh to improve maternal and newborn health for a further 40,000 women and their babies by helping them to access good quality health services.

Striving to make sure that there are women’s groups in the future for little Halima to attend when she is ready to become a mum. 

But information is more important than food.
 It helps us look after ourselves and our family better.”

Help mothers like Sharmin and babies like Halima survive. Please support our Bringing it Home campaign.

Celebrating World Contraception Day - a case study from Mumbai

26 September marks World Contraception Day. This day is dedicated to highlighting the need for universal access to contraceptives. Women’s Health studies show that 222 million women want to avoid pregnancy, but lack access to birth control. This means that 41% of the 208 million pregnancies that occur worldwide are unintended.

Despite government support for access to contraceptives, family planning in Mumbai is sporadic - and isn’t integrated into wider services to support maternal health. Recent research shows that 46% of women in Mumbai can’t get access to contraception. 

SNEHA, the local organisation who run our women’s groups programme in India, has been running a community-based family planning project for the last three years, in Mumbai’s slum in Dharavi, Rajiv Gandhi Nagar. The project aims to:

• Raise awareness of the types of contraception available (including dispelling myths and misconceptions)

• Educate people on family planning and,

• Provide access to services.

To date, this project has targeted – and educated - over 3500 men and women in Mumbai. 

One of these women was 33 year-old Shashikala* who has been married for 10 years. After having four children, she and her husband decided not to have any more, and used a combination of natural calendar method and withdrawal. 

Through SNEHA's Maternal and Newborn community project Shashikala learnt that both of these methods had high failure rates, and was informed of the different – and more effective – methods that she could choose from. 

After consulting with her husband, Shashikala opted for a three-month injection, but she started to gain weight, which discouraged her from following this up with the next dose. SNEHA persuaded her to try other methods until she found one that suited her. Shashikala now has a Copper T (IUD) inserted, which enables them to enjoy their married life without fear of pregnancy. You can help more people access family planning services by making a donation to mark World Contraceptive Day. 

You can help more people access family planning services by making a donation to mark World Contraceptive Day.   

* Not her real name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mens' group

 

Maternal Matters interviews Ros Davies @ Women & Children First

Ros Davies is a Mum and the CEO of maternal and newborn health charity, Women & Children First.  Maternal Matters is delighted that she’s christening the new Maternal Month page – thank you Ros!  

Can you tell us a bit about the work of Women & Children First? :

Women and Children First was established in 2001 to address the unacceptably high numbers of mother and babies dying in some of the poorest communities in the world. We work primarily through established local organisations to set up community women’s groups in poor rural areas in Africa and Asia.  

“Through meeting regularly in their groups, women are empowered to find their own solutions to maternal, newborn and child health problems.”   With our local partners we also try to improve local health services – for example providing refresher training for midwives – and advocate for better healthcare provision on a local level. This combined approach has achieved up to a forty-nine per cent reduction in maternal mortality and has reduced newborn mortality rates by about a third.  

How does your ideal working day start?: 

My ideal working day starts with news that someone wants to support our work! Funding for our projects comes mainly from big funders such as Comic Relief, the Lottery or the UK Government, but it is donations from individuals, trusts and companies which enable us to do all the ground work required to get new projects going. So, if my day starts with our fundraiser telling me that someone has made a donation online or a trust has sent us a cheque I am really happy as all those donations represent the potential for us to set up more women’s groups. We are currently planning a new project in the south of Ethiopia, so donations are helping us get that underway.   How does being a mother yourself affect the way you do your job?   About two weeks before I was due to give birth I developed pre-eclampsia. With good care and the right medical interventions – free on the NHS – I was fine and my son was delivered safely. If we had been in a remote village in Asia or Africa and not benefited from skilled medical care in good time, the outcome could have been very different.  

Read more...

Surviving Childhood in Africa - Malawi's Success Story

There is worldwide agreement that a concerted effort is required to ensure children in under-developed regions, survive and thrive. Progress on child survival in Sub-Saharan Africa has been patchy, but Malawi is an example of how a poor country can meet global goals. Political leadership is vital, but NGOs, such as Women and Children First and its partners in Malawi can make an important contribution. Ros Davies, CEO reports

The Millennium Development Goals
The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were agreed by world leaders in the year 2000. Each of these goals helps to improve children’s lives, particularly through better health and education.

MDG 4 aims specifically to reduce the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. Using 1990 rates as a starting point, MDG 4 aims to cut deaths by two-thirds by the end of 2015. There has been progress towards this goal but more than 6 million under-fives still die each year, mostly from preventable causes. That’s 17,000 deaths daily. Newborn babies comprise the majority of these deaths.

Success in Malawi
The greatest number of under-fives deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa which suffers 15 times the average number of deaths compared to developed regions.

Malawi is one of the few countries in the region to have already reached the MDG 4 target. It has achieved a 72% reduction in under-fives deaths – a fantastic achievement in a very poor country.

Read more...

Empowering communities to improve maternal and newborn health - Esther Sharma, Trustee, reports

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you already know that thousands of women and babies die every year, due to complications in pregnancy, labour or birth.  You probably also know that most of these women and babies are living in poor countries.  But I wonder if you’re now imagining defenceless, helpless women who are subject to the terrible circumstances in which they find themselves? 

All too often, and not without good reason, that’s the image that can come to mind when we think about mothers and babies dying in poor countries. But think again!  For over a decade, Women and Children First has been working to improve maternal and newborn health by empowering women and their communities to find their own solutions to their maternal and newborn health  problems.  

Empower [ɪmˈpaʊə]  Make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.

Read more...